The main function of sugar – or glucose – in the blood is to supply the brain with energy.
Maintaining a balanced blood sugar level is fundamental to health.
Not only is balance essential for plentiful energy throughout the day, but blood sugar levels are linked to a whole host of illnesses, including:
• inflammatory diseases – most cardiovascular disease is inflammatory
Paying attention to what and when you eat is a key factor in regulatingblood sugar.
Natural balancing act
Given the right fuel to work with, a healthy body is good at maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
Insulin removes excess sugar from the blood and stores it in the liver and muscles for use in an emergency.
If sugar levels fall too low for any reason, hormones (including glucagon, adrenalin and cortisol) tell the liver to put some of its stored glucose back in the blood.
But it’s only too easy to throw that balancing act out of kilter and find yourself on….
The energy rollercoaster
Eating the wrong foods can feed an unhealthy cycle of wild fluctuations in levels of blood sugar.
Blood sugar levels soar when you:
- eat sugary and refined foods – processed cereals, biscuits, sugary drinks, white bread.
- drink caffeine or get stressed, both of which trigger the release of glucose from the liver.
To get the levels back down, your body releases insulin as the ‘key’ to move glucose from the blood into its muscle and liver stores.
But if the rise in blood sugar has been rapid and dramatic, your body will tend to over-compensate by producing too much insulin, causing blood sugar levels to drop too far too fast.
This is when you feel sapped of energy; perhaps even nauseous, dizzy, irritable and lacking concentration.You need something urgently to pick you up – and reach for another cup of coffee or chocolate biscuit, shooting your blood sugar back into the excess level zone and again triggering the over-production of insulin.
Now you’re on the energy rollercoaster – and it’s not something you want to ride too often.
Here’s why you want to avoid the rollercoaster ride –
When cells are regularly exposed to this insulin rollercoaster, they can become resistant to insulin, meaning the pancreas needs to produce more and more to get the glucose out of the blood.
Insulin resistance is a component of metabolic syndrome (a group of specific medical conditions) that is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Insulin also encourages your body to store fat so, if you want to lose weight, frequent insulin release throughout the day is definitely something to avoid.
Type 2 diabetes
In extreme cases, the pancreas can become so worn out by the rollercoaster that it stops producing insulin, or the cells stop letting it in: a condition known as type 2 diabetes.
Sex and aging
The rollercoaster also overworks the adrenal glands which, as well as releasing the hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) that tell the liver to put glucose back into the blood, are crucial to:
• the production of sex hormones and anti-aging hormones
• blood pressure regulation
• inflammation management
You really don’t want to wear out your adrenal glands!
Eat right, stay healthy
Eating the right foods regularly is the key to balancing blood sugar and avoiding the rollercoaster.
The nutrients you need are:
Give the rollercoaster a miss by:
- eating more natural, unprocessed foods
- choosing low GI or GL foods
- reducing stress
- avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine